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Don’t Cry for me Argentina

I love Argentina, in 2008 I visited Buenos Aires in 2012 I returned with friends and a lot has changed, not all for the best. In 2008 a US Dollar bought about three Argentine pesos, now the bank rate is closer to five pesos for a dollar and the official inflation rate for 2012 was 10.8%. A typical lunch cost about 25 pesos in 2008 and is double that now. With the devaluation of the peso relative to the dollar the impact on us was small, but for those who earn their daily bread in Argentine pesos the impact has been significant. I was told the current minimum wage in Argentina is 2,000 pesos a month, about $400; not much more than the minimum in Panama with costs much higher. So if you want to shed a tear shed it for the masses living in Argentina, not for the tourists.

If you travel to Argentina in the near future take US dollars or Euros. In 2008 you could get either from any ATM no more, the government has restricted access to other currencies and Argentines are hungry for dollars and secondarily euros. In stores we had exchange rates of 6.5 pesos to one US dollar, from money changers I receive as much as 7 pesos for a dollar. At those rates the prices were not so bad at 5 to one it was expensive.

The costs of all things imported were astronomical. My Macbook power supply fried our first week there. It took some serious hunting to find a replacement in Buenos Aires, only one Apple dealer we could find even had one, they wanted 1200 pesos for the power supply, almost $240, I ordered one from Amazon for $29.

Argentina has taken a path of protectionism. They have very high tariffs on imports and export taxes on many items. Argentina has some of the best beef and wine in the world and a very long border with Chile. We could not find either wine or beef from Argentina in Chile.

What appeared affordable were groceries. I did a food survey of some items for comparison between Argentina, Chile and Panama and will compile and covert currencies later when I post it. We kept our travel costs down by renting apartments for a week in three cities, only two nights were spent in a hotel in Santiago Chile. In all cases, including the hotel they wanted US dollars not pesos for rent. We also did a fair amount of cooking and used a lot of public transportation. While we were in Argentina they were announcing increases in public transportation costs, the subway was 2.5 pesos for a ride increasing the 3.5 pesos.

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Many restaurants in Argentina have a seating charge, not only do you pay for your food and drink but you pay for the privilege of paying for your food and drink.

We ate well, lived well, travelled well and saw a lot and it is likely at least I will return.

One more note of significance for those of us in Panama; Copa Airlines is great. We flew nonstop on a Boeing 737-800 a new aircraft. Copa is state of the art we did web checkin, they handled baggage perfectly, the aircraft left on time, although the flight left at 9pm they served us food, drink, a selection of movies and excellent service. Copa runs nonstop from Panama City and we spent less time in the air than in the bus from David to Panama City. On the return trip I neglected to do web checkin because I did not have a printer, I did it from my Iphone while standing in the queue to check my luggage and they printed out the boarding pass at the counter. Copa is a real Panamanian asset, a well run business building Panama City into a hub.

Tomorrow some pictures and specifics on Buenos Aires for the tourist.

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